Eyewitness to the Desolation of ‘Black Wall Street


Charles Blow recounts the events and aftermath of the destruction of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa with one of the remaining eye witnesses, 103 year old Olivia J. Hooker when she was six years old.

People think that the horror of America’s racial history is an unfortunate episode among ancestors, but it is not. The civil rights movement was only 50 years ago. The Tulsa riot was less than 100 years ago. People alive today still carry that weight, still manage that trauma, still hide those scars.


The piece also includes a link to the 2001 Report Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.

A crowd of white men armed by government officials and made deputies for the occasion marched into “Little Africa” and destroyed Black Wall Street.

What made is Black Wall Street?

Dozens of black-owned and operated businesses, including two newspapers, grocery stores and meat markets, clothing and dry good stores, billiard halls, beauty parlors and barber shops, restaurants, theater, medical practices and law firms.

By the time it was over 300 people were dead, Greenwood was in ruins and $4 million in claims had been filed. They never saw cent.

From the report:

Units of the Oklahoma National Guard participated in the mass arrests of all or nearly all of Greenwood’s residents, removed them to other parts of the city, and detained them in holding centers.

Entering the Greenwood district, people stole, damaged or destroyed personal property left behind in homes and businesses.

People, some of them agents of government, also deliberately burned or otherwise destroyed homes credibly estimated to have numbered 1,256, along with virtually every other structure — including churches, schools, businesses, even a hospital and library — in the Green wood district.

Our is not an immigrant’s tale.

Geordi EdwardsHisory, Violence